The explosion of “virtual medicine” made possible by Internet connectivity, mobile technology and electronic health records is rapidly transforming America’s health care and health insurance systems.
But getting to the future could prove to be a bumpy ambulance ride. The transformation is raising all sorts of variations on the question: Can you trust a virtual doctor?
If a procedure is recommended during a patient’s online doctor visit with an expert physician hundreds of miles away and is executed by a rural doctor close to home, who’s liable if it’s botched or a court rules that it was unnecessary?
If a physician takes a photo of a patient’s wound with his smartphone and sends it to another physician or a consultant, does that violate privacy laws?
And who is liable if your doctor orders tests or procedures based on incomplete or faulty electronic medical records?
New opportunities, new challenges
One thing is certain: These and hosts of other virtual medical questions are slowly being addressed within the health care industry — before they land well-intentioned practitioners in court.